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  Listen Up! 10/20/03 Listen Up!

Monday, Oct. 20

Van Morrison, “What’s Wrong With This Picture?” Blue Note Records. Van switches to the jazz label, and stays with jazz and blues for the most part. I’m not sure how I feel about his songs this time around, but the record sounds great, that’s for sure. Punchy arrangements, and Van is belting out the blues. Of course, bitching about being a celebrity hardly wins him any sympathy nearly 40 years after he first became one. It’s been ten or twelve years since I was blown away by a Van Morrison record, but these last two have definitely been worth hearing.

Bonnie Raitt, “The Best of Bonnie Raitt,” Capitol Records. This is the best of Bonnie Raitt only if you accept the proposition, ludicrous in the extreme, that her career began in 1988, not 1972. There ain’t no Warner Bros. blues cuts represented here, just the pop stuff from Capitol. Not that the Capitol stuff isn’t great, although I have to say the slick 80s production values don’t hold up half as well as Raitt’s performances of these great songs do. What we have here is a solid listening experience, collecting “Thing Called Love,” “Nick of Time,” “Something To Talk About,” “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” “Dimming of the Day” and other staples of clothing store muzak. If you’re like me, you perk up in those stores when Bonnie Raitt comes on, so that’s not a dig. It’s a testament to the fact that she found a way to simultaneously please those who want pleasant background music and those of us who want passion and skill in equal doses.

Dwele, “Subject,” Virgin Records. You know, I’m willing to let r’n’b singers practice their scales, if and only if they bother to wed said practice to some slamming beats, and maybe (on a really good day) some hooks. Dwele, however, has lame beats, no hooks, and just goes up and down the notes in the same rigorous fashion every song. Why is this supposed to be seductive?

--Steve Pick

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